People have used paper and pen to take notes, create lists, and stay organized for a very long time. We have grown accustomed to our paper note-taking and the feel of a pen on paper.
But in our fast-paced world, people see the need for more efficiency. There are places in our lives where we can do something we’ve always done, (like taking notes) but be more efficient if we change how we do it.
Switching from a paper notebook and pen to an iPad and Apple Pencil is the hack that will take your note-taking from inefficient and messy to efficient and organized.
It’s a given that a note-taking app will have a lot more “bells and whistles” when compared to a notebook and pen. But bells and whistles aside, taking notes in a note-taking app on an iPad with an Apple Pencil is more efficient.
But before we talk about efficiency, I want to cover a couple of things that are important to making the shift from paper to iPad: The feel of writing on a screen, and typing versus handwriting.
Make writing on glass a pleasant experience
I know many people love the way it feels to write in a notebook, and when I suggest they switch to writing on a tablet they feel like something is being taken away from the writing experience. I had this issue too.
In the past, technology wasn’t at the point where it felt natural enough to write on a tablet. I’ve used paper for studying and taking notes during meetings. I liked the way writing on paper felt, and I didn’t like the way writing on the screen of a tablet felt.
When we write on paper we get a nice, slightly rough feel that keeps a good amount of pressure on the pen tip to make our writing even and smooth.
When you write on a tablet, there seems to be no resistance so your stylus slides around the screen. When you have a plastic stylus tip on a glass screen your handwriting looks awful, or at least mine does.
For that reason, I stuck to paper.
It wasn’t until I found the PaperLike screen protector for my iPad, that I was fully converted to handwriting notes on my iPad. The paperLike solved every problem I ever had with writing directly on a tablet screen and changed my writing experience from bad to good.
Optimize note-taking for learning and retention
I’ve heard a few people ask, “Why do you handwrite your notes when you could be typing on a keyboard even faster? That’s not efficient. Are you just bad at typing?”
I am fast at typing. Typing quickly on a keyboard has been a valuable time-saver for me when working up reports, or blog posts. But when it comes to note-taking, I prefer to write by hand.
As I’ve shown in my ebook, Paperless Note-taking Like a Pro, when we write our notes by hand in our own words, it uses a different part of our brain and helps us remember what we’ve written. Research has shown that people retain less when they type their notes into a document.
Now that we’ve addressed two issues that often get in the way of making the switch from paper note-taking to digital note-taking, let’s look at some of the reasons why digital note-taking is more efficient than note-taking with a pen and paper.
Find the information you need really fast
At work, I take notes every day. I take notes in meetings, write lists of things that need completing, and track projects and communication. I don’t take notes just to have them stored away. These are working notes. I need to access them regularly.
With a notebook and pen, you write down notes on the next open page, or in the margins. There isn’t a good way to organize what you’ve written. It’s even harder to find what you’re looking for when you need it. You can add sticky notes or write in red at the top of each page, but you’re still going to spend a huge amount of time looking through notebook pages to find the information you need.
When you take notes digitally, you can write your notes, knowing that the in-app search function is available any time you need to find something. The search function allows you to search for any word. The app will show you all the pages that contain your search term, and the term will be highlighted.
You can even come up with your own coded system to make searching easier, by creating a word or number code to use at the top of specific notes. Your budget documents could all be coded with a 101, while your project documents could have a code of 201, for example. The only limit is your imagination, and what makes this system great is it’s customizable to your unique workflow and needs.
Never worry about losing your notes
When you use a notebook for keeping notes, you have to lug it around with you wherever you go. And you need to make sure you’ve got a pen or pencil handy. This way, you can grab it to take notes whenever you need to, but you also need it there to access your notes for your daily workflow management.
Since all of your important daily information is in this paper notebook, losing it would be a disaster. Notebooks, by their nature, aren’t easily backed-up.
Keeping notes digitally means that your notes can always be backed up to the cloud. If you lose your device, or leave it at home, you can rely on the fact that your notes are backed-up and you haven’t lost them.
A digital note-taking app, like Noteshelf 2, allows you to upload your notes to Dropbox, Google Docs, or Evernote, so you can access your notes from any device in most locations.
Another aspect of losing notes comes when there are additional resources you need to keep track of, like handouts from a meeting or supplemental notes from a lecture.
When you have to stuff extra papers in your notebook, they can easily fall out or just get crumpled beyond use.
Digital note-taking apps allow you to import documents and PDFs, or even snap a photo of a document to be digitally saved with the handwritten notes you took on the same subject.
Keep neat looking, organized notes
If you look around online, you’ll see all kinds of videos where students show you how they take beautiful notes. These videos are inspiring and fun to watch.
The problem for me is, I don’t have time to create note-taking art and still get everything done that comes at me in a day. But I still want my notes to look nice.
To keep nice looking notes with a paper notebook, or traditional bullet journal and pen, you have to have several pens in different colors, with different tip widths, highlighters, and a really good note-taking system. You have to be able to move forward a few pages in your notebook to make room for different topics and, sometimes, you can run out of pages.
With a digital journal you always have fresh pages, multiple pen tips and colors to choose from, and even templates, all at your fingertips. You can switch between these tools quickly, and they’re located inside the app so you don’t have to carry around extra tools with you.
A digital journal also gives you the option of using text boxes, grids, bullet points, and other page organizing features. Using a digital solution to make your notes easy to read is much faster and more efficient than doing it with a pen and paper notebook.
These are some of the reasons that paperless note-taking is more efficient than taking notes with a pen and paper. And, in my opinion, the biggest advantage of using a digital journal for your daily note-taking is being able to write down the things you need to do and remember—and then be able to find the exact note you need at a moment’s notice.
Even after all of the benefits of digital note-taking, I still found myself looking for features and functions in my daily note-taking apps that weren’t there. So I created a digital journal to use alongside my favorite note-taking app and have seen my efficiency go up another notch.
A few of the features of my digital journal that took my note-taking to the next level are:
- Being able to jump to different views in my calendar: I can look at my calendar from a daily, weekly, or monthly view. I can keep detailed notes on each of these pages, and the notes are searchable.
- Choose from multiple templates: I needed various templates that I could use that gave me organization, but still left enough space for writing and adding images.
- Easy navigation tabs on the side: The navigation tabs let me quickly move from one part of my journal to another, without losing the view of where I’ve been or where I need to go next.
- Project-specific sections: There’s a project page with a list that serves as a table of contents, and when you click on the project name, you’re taken to another page where you can keep track of the details of your project.
- A link to image icons: A white button on the bottom left of the screen opens the Safari browser and takes you to my website where you’ll find image icons you can drag and drop into your calendar or notes. (You can also insert clip art and images from your photos or the internet.)
- Milestones section: There is a dedicated section to note your yearly milestones, with a more detailed section to manage each milestone individually. (You can even tick them off the list when they’ve been achieved.)
This is the way I’m taking notes every day and it’s how I find information fast. I’m more efficient since switching from paper note-taking to digital note-taking. I can’t ever see myself going back.
With all of this amazing goodness I have just highlighted about paperless note-taking, what could possibly be missing?
Well I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t tell you there is one thing I miss about paper that the paperless apps have not given to me.
The one thing I miss that I don’t see an easy paperless solution for is the physical presence of a notebook sitting in front of me on my desk, so that every time I look at it, I see the list of things I need to do.
I have tried to counter not having this physical reminder, by making my digital list the first thing I see when I turn on my iPad. It’s a fine substitution, but I do miss the physical cue I got from the paper list.
But all-in-all, paperless note-taking has transformed my life, and in spite of that tiny little flaw, there’s no competition between digital and paper.
If you want to know even more about paperless note-taking and efficiency, join us in the Inner Circle to get all of your questions answered.